Jan. 1993 Ano Pavliana
Splendid Thursday walk starting just beyond the village of Ano Pavliana from where you can see the island southwards and northwards – an unusual view of the rocky coastline on the west coast. Sea blue, sun bright – heavy frost this morning so temperature not too hot – a celestial day.
We didn’t take the obvious track newly bulldozed, but a more attractive one which took us on the sea side of the mountain, high above Paramona and Pentati with charming dry stone walled vine plots. The wide track petered out as they so often do – but we persisted along a foot path which continued toward olive trees. By persisting we descended by tortuous paths weaving down the shelves of olives groves, – quite treacherous. Then it straightened out so we could continue on level ground.
It debouched on a distinct ‘way’ going up and down the hillside. We went up hoping to strike another track we could see in the distance, but it took us on up and up to the ‘dinosaur’’ back of the mountain, and Joy- it joined the track we might have taken from the point where we had started. This continued on toward the head of the mountain circling around its throat at the highest point. It is only a small mountain. Magnificent views across the breath of the island – east to the Mainland mountains looking like nougat with traces of icing on them, i.e. snow. The body of the island at this point is all furry with olive and cypress and not a modern thing in it as it heaves itself up in a green wave set against the blue sea in the straits. We could see our Pantokrator mountain, and the cone of Pelekas to the north, and right down to Paxos , free floating off the bottom of our island.
We have been higher than this on Pantokrator, but not with this much of the unspoilt island as a sea of green below us, rising up in a grand sweep set against the far mainland mountains. ~~
Feb 25 , 1993
An ‘A’ Class Thursday walk with Ann. Dull cold day. Snow on mainland mountains – slate blue bases with snow peaking against heavy grey sky. The whole panorama of it. Don’t remember seeing this effect before.
We picked up a track round the base of Ay. Deka we scouted out last week. – an old established track suggested by the way the dry stone walls are part of the way – unlike the bulldozed tracks that smash existing ways. My intuition led us left at a junction of tracks by a shed. Sometimes it leads only into an Olive grove – but this went on, becoming a narrow path running along its own little shelf beside the stone wall through vegetable plots and olive trees. Winding in and out , we came into an enchanting landscape of olive trees and rocks. Unusual to have so many rocks. You could have said it was a rock grove with trees. It was like a series of stage sets for A Midsummer Night’s Dream or The Magic Flute. The path led us through corridors of rocks on this side of the mountain which may be an extinct volcano.
There was a consciousness in these rocks – not rocks so much as natural concrete stuck with large pebbles, There were scoops and baths in the formation of them showing where water or larva had swirled . A petrified activity in the descending and ascending vistas of rocks perched on top of each other, scooped and hollowed. It was weird and magical – totally enclosed with olive branches meeting over head.
There was no light in the day, but it wasn‘t dull. What must it be like in here with full sunlight making shadows and illuminating the greenery. Ferns and sages grew out of the rocks, and all kinds of things.
The path went on and on winding about until we swung right round and were ascending towards the village of Ano Garouna on the back of the mountain, and the opposite side to where we had left the car. From this elevation, we had views out over the landscape to the sea – a grey smudge today.
We entered the village – it is years since I had been there. The old Venetian Chimney built across the descending alleyway is still in use.
We came out again on the broad track which brought us to the place we had picnicked last week, where I had noticed a descending ’way’. We followed this, which brought us back to the beautiful rock formations where we picnicked. It is a place to make you believe in fairies. I said to Ann ’ if a ’little person’ popped up on the top of that rock to look at us, would you be surprised?’
It is the longest trail we have been on that is so untouched by the modern world. We walked for four hours in a world unchanged for at least 150 years to put the minimum time scale on it. Of course the village is being brought up to date, but all the area of the hillside is untouched.
The almond trees are in blossom around the village. We diverted yet again on the way back to the car, by going down toward the valley and then a good pull up again by a cobbled stairway that brought up to the road and the car. It was one of the best walks we have ever done. I long to do it again in full sunlight. ~~
[ *The way up to the village has since been bulldozed.]
March 1993 The ‘Ozymandias’ Walk : Kata Garouna
From Kata Garouna up the mountain across the top to find ourselves among ancient terraces of vines like in boxes as in a theatre, All carefully tended. Only two houses – one modern, and one old , and a little church beside what might be the ruins of its older self.
Then we followed a path up onto the shoulder of the mountain and round to the other side where the good wide track suddenly ended in an olive grove. But we picked up a path which led us down steeply – only just passable – through Arbutus trees to a small olive grove in the centre of which was a great hunk of rock as big as a building. It had the shape of a great head with a nose and a deep, deep eye socket – the nose had two holes for nostrils. It was lying on one ear like a fallen colossus – the head of The fallen Pharaoh. Look on my works ye mighty and beware…. Ozymandias, King of Kings.
1st April, 1993.
Day absolutely clear sun- cold brisk North wind. Did the Monastery on Ag. Mathias., coming down again to the right of the village and stumbled on a charming little church in its own little rock on the edge of an olive grove. A ruined house was part of the complex. The little church and the little house in a small walled area – just like the earliest temples. We were able to see into the church because the new ironwork door had no glass in it.
The place had been decked for Easter – with bay leaves scattered on the floor. Red and white ribbons tied onto the transverse rods from which hung lots of oil dip monstrance’s. Ribbons pinned over the icons in the Iconostasis. These simple chapels have a sweet charm. Their icons have much more dignity than plaster statues.
We walked back to the car through the upper levels of the large village which is rapidly turning into a small town. The transformation of these villages is now going on at such a rate – all the old character going..going… gone. Pebble-dashing the old walls, new plastic paints in the wrong colours, facing things with marble – ornate ironwork doors and even porch lighting. We found an unpromising track through the new buildings at the edge of the village. A battered tin sign, completely rusted, is the only indication of a ruined abandoned village down here. We came to a church with a beautiful lemon grove behind it. The trees heavy with the nippled lemons. We filled our back packs with these. A bit further on we came to another little church – these two churches probably mark the extent of the old village. The second church had old orange orchards above it, and ancient olive trees below it. A sort of rainforest of oranges, lemons, Loquat and olive trees, supported by ruined stone walls covered in ivy. A side door with glass in it, enabled us to see into the interior of the church with its wall of icon saints. A tree in front of the church had lemons and oranges growing from the same tree. There was a walnut tree and an ancient Loquat. Comfrey grew like a carpet all over the area round about. It was a magic place. ~~~
April 8th 1993
Starting from below Strongili across the valley in the opposite direction from the Paviliana walk to the foothills of Ag. Matthias. ‘Edward Lear’ olive groves with splodges of acid yellow oxalis, mauve geranium, orange marigolds, interlaced with white flowers of all kinds.
The silhouette of a donkey against the bright light beyond the trees with the pure pigment yellow colour, plus a black faced black legged Moreno standing in a meadow of small white flowers like snow – regarding us,
Tiny tadpoles wiggling in a little stream of water like animated crochets. The spring hissing into a cauldron container – we were attracted to it by the sound; contained in a receptacle like an upright drain pipe it literally boiled. We put our hands in to feel the pressure of it. To quote Keats’ Endymion:
Cold springs run to warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass.
Flower….flowers… I am struck by the intensity of a flower’s Being. Looking into a flower with a magnifying glass one shares the intensity of its perfect existence for its short moment of blossoming. I’ve come to the conclusion that flowers are the best thing on the Planet. Animals are too near us in behaviour and temperament. We can use and abuse them, they can pander to our emotions, but flowers are different. They are while they are, and while they are, they are simply perfection each in its individual way. They bud, they bloom they pod , they die and the come again next year – until we totally ruin the planet. Each species unfolds in its own way, it’s colours are a filter of what it accepts and rejects from the sun’s light.
Birds are beautiful too, but birds and insects reflect the cruelty of Nature of which we also are too much a part. I know there are predatory plants, but on the whole they are innocent.
The walk became more and more varied as we followed the tracks or cut across to discover other tracks. We met, in all, about five people in that large area. They were more surprised to see us than we were to see them. ’Pou pas??’ ( Where you go?)the peasant lady screams, leaning on a hoe in the middle of nowhere – her donkey grazing nearby looking at us with equal astonishment. When we mention the name of the village across the valley, she is silent, before saying with incredulity : ‘ me ta pothia?’ ‘(with your feet?) Presuming foreigners have cars – why on earth would we go on our feet.
The beauty of this island in the interior is still breathtaking, but now it must be won on foot. There are vistas yet which rise and fall like green waves in which no cement flotsam is visible, though it may be there. And we discover with our feet how many hidden pockets of timeless ravines there are even in a relatively small area. Constantly we find our way blocked by a steep ravine of olive, cypress or bramble, ilex and arbutus as impenetrable as a rainforest. Sometimes we labour down steep walled terraces, or find ourselves boxed in by Arbutus or where the neglected olives have been overcome by the unchecked ivy and brambles.
By a little chapel in the woods we saw a peach-coloured Hoopoe with startling black and white wing spread. Beside the chapel was a runnel of water purling over stones in low water falls and making across the cemented trace making a ford less than an inch deep. We stand watching it trickling through its runnels – fortunately it was litter-free.
We keep coming upon these little duck like chapels in the middle of nowhere. In fact, we were trying to get back to the one we found last week. We didn’t, but found two others. Wherever we go in the wildernesses of Corfu we come upon these touching examples of human spirituality in the form of tiny white chapels, often far from human habitation. Yet, at the run up to Easter, you will find a dip lamp burning – some little old woman has toiled here from the nearest village to light the lamp – and decorate the place with red and white ribbons, the table set in the body of the chapel covered with a cloth and few fresh flowers and the oil dip lamp burning.
We also come upon the most appalling sights and sites. The first bridge we crossed over a tiny river, where a cement weir had been made. After the latest rain, it was running strongly though at no great depth. We looked down from the bridge to see old cookers, washing machines, prams and chairs dumped there. It was sickening. Wherever we go in the wildness of Corfu, we come upon these things, usually in the best view. When you come to a view with any kind of drop away from the track, never look down. Ugh! You’ll see old bedsteads, fridges etc. Anywhere you can drive a truck to will be filled with junk. ~~~~
April 1993: The Golden Oriole
We took the way up from Strongili to the little chapel on the rock called St. John of the Pigeons. It was hot toiling up the gorse covered hillside. It isn’t gorse but spiny Broom. Looking down at the olive groves with Judas trees isolated mauve among the grey green froth. Looking down on a terraced slope I saw the flash of cadmium yellow. The bird was in a burnt olive tree. Two birds very busy there in open ground, unusual for them.
a Golden Oriole. I thought I was fated never to see this bird, though Ann has them in the tree her garden. I know what it looks like in the Bird book but I had no idea how bright it would be in real life. A pure cadmium yellow. The bird is an bright as a Parrot. I had a good sighting of it – in fact, there were two. We saw them several times. One stayed for a long time in a tree so I got my glass on it. It was like seeing the Blue Bird of Happiness – or the Bird of Paradise. It’s the Yellow Bird of Happiness.
We returned to the shade of the olive clad hills following pathways among the terraces which brought us out in a cypress wood. We pushed through very prickly bushes to retain our path. One has the feeling of being uniquely privileged exploring the island this way – or penetrating deeper and deeper into the animal pelt of the island escaping the mangy sores of tourism!
The Spring like a flowered Leopard is taking great leaps forward. ~~ Return To The Life and Works of Theresa Nicholas